South Africa

South Africa
The Rainbow Nation

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Welcome to Welkom.

Thursday, September 27 – Saturday, September 29

Eight down and three more to go! Our path has taken us all over S. Africa from Port Elizabeth to Welkom and given us the opportunity to meet some really special Rotarians and families. There have been no dull moments in our adventures.

We were taken by Richard and Allen (hosts) from Bloemfontein Thursday morning (Sept. 25th) half way to Welkom. Oh dear, here we go again with all that luggage! Angel and Johnny stuffed and stuffed until they finally were able to get all the luggage in 2 cars. What a feat! I actually had to carry one of Andrea’s pieces on my lap; so Andrea, you owe me one! Oh, what relief when we arrived in Welkom!

Anybody for lunch?? Yes, the Team was glad to eat again. I think this has become a habit with us. So after we fed our faces, we headed off for another visit.

There are many gold mines in the area providing a stable economy for the town. Unfortunately, however, mining is dangerous and often results in physical injuries. Oppenheimer Hospital, our next place to visit, is a hospital which was established for injured miners. According to our expert physical therapist, Andrea, hospital employees were doing a good job providing occupational and physical therapy for miners. The activities were very specific to the injuries and the skills needed by the miners. For the development of fine motor skills, the patients were actually making items (ex. basket weaving) rather than just exercising. Of course, you know who had to see if she could climb the ladder (me).

Loretta and I were taken to our host family, Bill and Gerda, where we were able to take a nice shower and have a cup of Roibus tea. Four Rotary Clubs (52 including children) met together for dinner and for our presentation. It went well and we received compliments from the group.

We had to rise quite early so we could head off to the gold mine at 6:30 a.m. Does anyone out there have some toothpicks I can use to hold my eyes open???? We were given an orientation regarding the history of the mine and safety precautions. Our garb (overalls, big boots, gloves and hard hats) made us look like we were from outer space. Workers thought we were quite funny. Next came the elevator to take us down 5200 feet; we were knocking on the Devil’s door! After exiting the elevator, we walked for almost a mile through mud, water and broken rocks before reaching the location of real adventure – the rock face. We entered almost pure darkness except for the lights on our hard hats and began descending to where the worker was drilling in preparation for blasting. I slipped and slid, trying to hold onto the cables overhead but my short body had difficulty reaching them. Finally at the end, the manager pointed out how the gold looked. It was amazing how much rock had to be removed to get only a small amount of gold. What an experience and what new appreciation we gained for the workers who must stay in small, dark spaces day in and day out. Light, wonderful light!!! The Team was so happy to walk out of the darkness and enter the elevator to return to the light of day.

During our next tour, “Morning Star Center” for HIV Positive children is a mission that brings light and hope to its otherwise hopeless.. Children are picked up each morning by buses and taken to the Center where they are fed and given medical care. The Center serves almost 60 children ranging in age from infants to 16 year olds. They sang and danced for us.

Off to lunch again. After lunch, we were taken to another Township where 450,000 people live. Homes ranged from extremely poor shacks to really nice homes. Every township has several “shebeens” (pubs) even though the people are the poorest in S.Africa. We had been told horror stories about their having put battery acid in the wine/liquor; however, the one they took us to was a decent place with regular cokes, beer, etc.

Hurry up, get showered and dressed for another Club social – that was the command. We enjoyed another braai and fellowship with Rotarians and their families.

The next morning I chose to spend some last minutes with my host family, Bill and Gerda. What an inspiration they were to me! The couple is going through many challenges. Gerda has a health problem but displays such faith in God and His will being done in her life. She radiated with God’s peace.

Breakfast was enjoyed by everyone and Fred with the Vryburg Rotary Club loaded us and our luggage in a combi – “on the road again!”

Elizabeth Smith
Team Leader

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